Archives for April 18, 2005

Patronizing Nurses

NursePatronizing, def:

    3. To treat in a condescending manner.

I’m not talking about talking down to a nurse.  You do that at your peril, and you cannot win.  I’ve never intentionally done it myself, but I’ve seen it a couple of times, and the best outcome was a bloody draw for the doc.  No, I’m talking about how things are done in medical communication.

It has never made sense to me that a nurse with experience, a been-there and done-that nurse has to accept being addressed by their first name by anyone, especially new docs.  I felt about 2 inches tall early in my career, when addressing senior nurses as "Marge" when my West Texas upbringing told me I should be saying "Mrs. Saint", or similar.  As I get older it’s getting a little easier to use first names, but I still feel uncomfortable.

This custom has to be a throwback to the early days of medicine when Docs were Minor Deities and Nurses were the happy handmaidens of the doctor.  Those times are gone (insert your comment below), but some of the behaviors have persisted despite the evolution of the overall relationship.  I think it’s time to bring some formal respect to our interactions, but wonder about addressing my nursing compatriots as "Nurse Nightingale", so I’ve not yet started the newest fad.

I still don’t get medical patronism.  Yeah, there’s a lot of things I don’t get, but this one has always bugged me.

Update: title spelling changed from ‘Patronizating’ to Patronizing.  So much for the new spellchecker!